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Toenail or Fingernail Avulsion: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Losing a toenail or fingernail because of an injury is called avulsion. The nail may be completely or partially torn off after a trauma to the area.

Your doctor may have removed the nail, put part of it back into place, or repaired the nail bed. Your toe or finger may be sore after treatment. You may have stitches.

You may have some swelling, colour changes, and bloody crusting on or around the wound for 2 or 3 days. This is normal. Taking good care of your wound at home will help it heal quickly and reduce your chance of infection.

The wound should heal within a few weeks. If completely removed, fingernails may take 6 months to grow back. Toenails may take 12 to 18 months to grow back. Injured nails may look different when they grow back.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If possible, prop up the injured area on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Leave the bandage on, and if you have stitches, do not get them wet for the first 24 to 48 hours. Use a plastic bag to cover the area when you shower.
  • If your doctor told you how to care for your wound, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • After the first 24 to 48 hours, you can remove the bandage and gently wash around the wound with clean water 2 times a day. If the bandage sticks to the wound, use warm water to loosen it. Do not scrub or soak the area. Do not go swimming.
    • You may cover the wound with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage.
    • Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.
  • If you have stitches, do not remove them on your own. Your doctor will tell you when to return to have the stitches removed.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • The skin near the wound is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • The wound starts to bleed, and blood soaks through the bandage. Oozing small amounts of blood is normal.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from your toe or finger.
    • Pus draining from your toe or finger.
    • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groin.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have problems with the nail as it grows back.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.